Tag Archives: pasta

macaroni cheese – but not as we knew it

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Last night we spent a happy few hours having dinner – & watching youtube videos 🙂 – with friends. We were to have watched Cold Comfort Farm but when the time came it turned out someone else had borrowed it 😦 However, our friends had decided that in keeping with the film’s title, we’d have comfort food for dinner, & so we did. Macaroni cheese, in fact, but with a decided tweak to the recipe.

On enquiring, we found that along with the lovely creamy cheese sauce, there came… finely diced dried apricots and, ditto, gherkins. And some home-grown chili pepper. Yes, really, and it was very nice indeed, popped under the grill with sliced tomatoes on top and served with lashings of finely-grated parmesan. Everyone agreed that this recipe was a keeper.

And along with it we had a new take on broccoli – smallish florets blanched, tossed with olive oil, a little flaked chili, and lots of minced garlic, and then finished off under the grill. Very very tasty, and another recipe to add to the list of things to try at home.

And next time it’s our turn to visit, Cold Comfort Farm will be there ready 🙂

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cheese-filled cannelloni

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The other day I found a packet of dry cannelloni tubes in the pantry, & decided we’d have cannelloni for tea. The sauce was going to be easy: we’re slowly working through the packets of tomato sauce that I froze last summer, so out came one of those, plus there was a 450g packet of beef mince in the freezer. So I turned the oven to heat to 180 C and next, once the meat was defrosted (microwaves are a wonderful invention) I browned it in a frying pan over medium heat, stirring to break it up, & then added a packet of sauce & left it to simmer very gently. But what to put in the tubes of pasta?

In the fridge were eggs, a block of parmesan cheese, and 250g tubs of ricotta cheese & sour cream. I emptied the 2 tubs into a bowl & beat them together with a wooden spoon, before beating in the egg and some grated parmesan. Next I chopped together fresh parsley, basil mint (because I still don’t have any basil) and lemon thyme & mixed that into the cheese mixture. I used a teaspoon to fill the pasta tubes, standing each on its end to do this. In retrospect I could have used a piping bag, but oh well…

I spooned a little of the sauce over the base of an oblong casserole dish, then arranged a layer of filled cannelloni over the top. More sauce on the pasta, and then the next layer of cheese-filled tubes, and finally the rest of the sauce. Because I felt like a cheese overload I sprinkled a little more parmesan over the top before putting the dish into the oven – it took about 35 minutes to cook, by which time the sauce was bubbling & the cheese golden. (You can check that it’s cooked by pushing a skewer into the pasta – there should be very little resistance.)

We had it with salad & some steamed broccoli from the garden – there was plenty for 4 with leftovers for lunch the next day.

 

macaroni with broccoli pesto

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We had my mother-in-law to tea last night & I wanted to make something a bit different that would tickle her taste buds. Looking in the fridge I found we had quite a lot of broccoli (the result of me buying some at the market before I found the first big head of the season growing in the garden). And in the cupboard we had dried macaroni, so I decided to make a variation on a recipe in the Saturday paper. (A variation that was necessary because I didn’t have basil & I didn’t have pine nuts & I didn’t have the fancy pasta, just the macaroni 🙂 )

First I set water to boil in a large saucepan, prior to adding the macaroni (about 1&1/2 cups). Then I cut a large head of broccoli into florets before cooking them until just tender. The recipe said just to blanch the veges, but Mum is not a fan of crispy greens unless we are talking lettuce.)

While the broccoli cooked I pulsed 1/2 walnut halves (I know you don’t like them, Annette, but you could use cashews instead – or the original pine nuts!) in my stick blender’s chopping attachment until they were like largeish breadcrumbs, put them in a bowl, & chopped a cup or so of basil mint leaves (new addition to my herb garden & it’s a very vigorous grower) before adding them to the bowl as well. Then I did the same with the broccoli, until it was a rough paste, & added it to the bowl with 1/2c olive oil & a good grinding of salt & pepper.

By that time the pasta was nicely al dente, so I drained it & returned it to the pan along with the broccoli pesto, mixed it all together, & served with grated parmesan atop and alongside some carrots & nice crumbed pork schnitzel.

Mum was very taken with this offering 😀

pumpkin, feta & walnut ravioli

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We had several friends to dinner last night, & as one has a particular fondness for vegetarian food, I thought I’d do something with some of our plentitude of pumpkins. I decided on ravioli because I rather enjoy making pasta, & was enticed by the idea of a combination of feta, pumpkin & walnuts that bubbled to the front of my brain.

First up, the pumpkin(s) needed roasting. I picked out a big butternut pumpkin & – because you can never have too much pumpkin (had there been any excess it would have ended up in bread) – a couple of the cute yellow-&-white striped minis. Once split in half & seeds scooped out, they went cut-side down on a teflon sheet in a roasting dish, to bake at 180 C for about 40 minutes.

Then, the pasta. Traditionalists may flinch at this – but because I’d got other things on the go as well (making the dip for folks to enjoy with beer, not to mention the pastry for dessert), I decided to let the bread machine do the kneading of my flour & eggs with a littlebitta oil. I’d tried this before and with good results; you just have to keep an eye on it in case there’s a need for extra liquid or flour.

Once the pumpkins were cooked & had cooled a little, I scooped the flesh into a bowl & mashed it roughly, before stirring in about 1/2 c coarsely-grated parmesan, 150 g creamy feta (crumbled into bits about 1 cm on a side), & a cup of roughly-chopped walnuts (you want a bit of firmness to the bite, so don’t process them to the point where you have walnut flour!).

While I do have one of those little trays for making ravioli I’ve only used it the once. Instead I make use of my 4cm round ravioli cutter (a bit like a biscuit cutter but with a handle). So yesterday I rolled chunks of my dough ever more thinly through our pasta machine. With each sheet of pasta, I laid it flat on a floured bench and placed heaped teaspoonfuls of the pumpkin, cheese’n’nut mix onto half the sheet, well spaced. Then I slowly folded the other half of the sheet down over them, pressing down around each mound of filling to exclude as much air as possible, before cutting out the little pasta packets. As I made them, I dusted each one lightly with flour before placing them on racks covered with baking paper, then covering them with a dry tea towel & leaving them to dry. I ended up with over 6 dozen, but then there were 7 of us for dinner so that sounded right (although it looked an awful lot!).

The sauce was easy as I have rather a lot in the freezer 🙂 Just needed to defrost a couple of packets & then heat them through in the microwave, while boiling the water to cook the ravioli. Which, once the water’s boiling, don’t take long to cook. Pop them carefully into the pot, & then once they’ve come to the surface & the water’s returned to the boil, they should need only 2-3 minutes more – fish one out & try it to be sure.

To serve, I layered the pasta with the sauce in two large oblong dishes, and brought them to the table along with a bowl of finely-grated parmesan and a big salad of lettuce & finely-sliced red pepper from the garden.

The daughter swears she hates pumpkin. But we noticed that last night, she had two helpings 😀

using more of the garden’s bounty: vegetable lasagne

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Something else that we seem to have a lot of in the garden – as well as all those tomatoes – is pumpkins. While the daughter dislikes them, the husband & I are rather keen on pumpkins, but even he agrees that he might have got just a little carried away in his plantings last year. With reason, mind you – after growing the usual butternuts & crown pumpkins & a few supermarket squash last year, we found ourselves with an awful lot of the things: far too many for the two pumpkin-eaters to take care of. So when we came across some small-fruit varieties, we thought we’d try them out. Well! Small the fruit may be, but the plants still sprawl everywhere, & they’re amazingly prolific given that the seed packets usually said ‘2-3 fruit per plant’. And some of them are already ripe.

So, since I had freshly-made tomato sauce to hand, I decided on vegetable lasagne for tea. (I’d like to say that I made the pasta for it, but honesty compels me to admit that I didn’t; I used a packet of fresh lasagne sheets from the supermarket.)

First I split a couple of our cute little pumpkins in half, removed the seeds, brushed them with oil & put them in the oven (180 C) to bake. Once they were cooked & cool enough to handle, I scooped the lovely rich, dry-ish flesh into a bowl. In another bowl I mixed 500g of cottage cheese with one large egg & a decent handful of chopped parsley & garlic chives. And I set the first of our spinach to cook in briskly boiling water. Then I assembled the lasagne, using a largish roasting dish as I had 5 hungry mouths to feed.

On the bottom of the dish went about a cup & a half of sauce. Then I laid half the pasta sheets on top of the sauce, & topped them with the pumpkin, the spinach leaves, & some more sauce. Atop that went the rest of the pasta, followed by the cottage cheese mix. More sauce over the top of that, sprinkled with grated tasty cheese, & then the lasagne went into the oven (180 C again) for about 30 minutes until it was bubbling & the cheese was golden.

We had it with salad, & – some time later – blackberry & apple crumble for dessert.

what to do with all those tomatoes?

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Make sauce!

After a slow start to the season, our tomatoes are really beginning to bear fruit. And the husband planted quite a few this year: the usual beefsteak & cherry tomato varieties, but also – because I asked nicely – a type called Long Tom. Which are big plants with big, elongated, fleshy fruit. Lots of them. So I’ve been making sauce – not the kind you’d put on sausages & pies, but the kind you’d use with pasta, or cook down to make a thick pizza sauce.

I tend not to use a fixed recipe for these. (Poor daughter 😦 ) I always begin with about 50g butter & a slosh of olive oil in one of my Really Large Pans, in which I set a couple of peeled & chopped onions to soften gently over low heat. After that I tend to add what’s available. The tomatoes are obviously a given 🙂 This time round I had a couple of kilos, which began their journey to sauce-dom by being put in a bowl & covered with boiling water, to make them easy to peel. While they sat there I peeled and sliced several smallish heads of garlic & added them to the onions, followed by half a dozen sliced ‘bulls horn’ red peppers (seeds removed). The peeled & chopped tomatoes joined everything else in the pan and then, because we have a lot of them as well, 4 thinly-sliced courgettes. (After all, I told myself, no-one – not even the courgette-averse – will know they’re there, once I’ve blitzed everything with the blender.)

Pot covered, I left it all to simmer over a low heat for about 20 minutes & then added a cup of chopped basil & about 1/2 c of fresh oregano leaves. A taste indicated a certain need for salt (1-2 tsp), & this time I also added 1 tsp of the lovely smoked paprika that my friend Annette gave me a while back. The final step when I’m making sauce is to add baking soda (1 tsp for this quantity of sauce): it cuts out most of the acidity & you’re left with a lovely, sweet, well-rounded sauce 🙂

The stick blender is about on its last legs, but it just managed to puree the vegetables, & once everything had cooled a bit I poured it into zip-lock bags & froze it for a less fruitful time of year. (Apart from that which I used in last night’s dinner, that is!).

sweet pepper sauce & handmade cheese-&-herb ravioli

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I am soooo enjoying being on holiday 🙂 And my idea of being on holiday includes (among other fun activities) cooking lots of Nice Things. This morning I biked down to the Farmers’ Market, but – because I knew I’d be coming home with blueberries – before I left I mixed a brioche dough & left it to rise. And when I got back I used it to make blueberry brioche (which I will probably write about in another post).

Also in the saddlebags were beetroot, apple juice, avocados, macadamia nuts, free-range eggs, and a whole lot of lovely long sweet red peppers, courtesy of the lovely folk at the Southern Belle Orchard booth. I had designs on those peppers! Some of them I packed away in the fridge, but I kept 4 big ones aside. After lunch (mmmm, nommilicious brioche!) I turned them into a lovely, slightly spicey sauce:

  • Slice a brown & a red onion thinly & start them frying gently in a heavy pan. (It wouldn’t actually matter which kind you used; I just grabbed what was there.)
  • Peel & chop the cloves from a couple of small heads of garlic & add them to the pan.
  • Remove the seeds from the peppers (you could use ordinary capsicums too) and slice the flesh; add that to the pan as well.
  • At this point I looked at our excess of zucchini, and then chopped 3 of them into small dice & popped them in the pan with everything else.
  • Add 1 tsp of paprika – the rich red smoked kind if you have it (which I do, cos my friend Annette gave me some), 1/4 tsp chili powder (more if you like it hot), & salt to taste, before pouring in 500 ml chicken stock (I didn’t have vege stock available). Pop a lid on the pan and simmer the mix gently for about 30 mins, & then a further 30 mins with the lid off if you want to thicken the sauce.
  • Finally, use a stick blender or food processor to process to a smooth-ish puree.

Now, I’d started off making the sauce without a firm idea of what to use it with, but while it was cooking (& I was doing my embroidery) I decided it would go rather nicely with cheese-&-herb ravioli. So I mixed up a batch of pasta dough (3 c flour, 6 of those free-range eggs, a couple of Tbsp of olive oil, all kneaded together & then – when I needed it – rolled out into thin sheets), & then dealt with the filling. Again, you could vary this according to what you’ve got in the fridge.

  • Beat together 250 g ricotta cheese and 250 g cream cheese, plus however much grated parmesan you feel like using.
  • Crush 2-3 cloves of garlic and add that to the cheese, along with about a cup of finely chopped herbs: I used parsley, basil, marjoram, lemon thyme, chives, & garlic chives.
  • Fry 3-4 rashers of bacon, chop finely, & stir into the cheese/herb mix, along with the zest of a lemon & juice to taste.
  • Finally, mix in an egg – it helps hold everything together when cooked.
  • Take a sheet of pasta (I rolled this one sheet at a time) & place teaspoonfuls of the filling on half the sheet, spacing them about 3 cm apart.
  • Fold the other half of the sheet over the top & press down around each little mound of filling, before cutting into ravioli. Place to dry on baking paper on a cake rack & then roll your next pasta sheet. That amount of dough & filling gave me about 4 dozen  5 dozen** ravioli.

When ready to eat, bring a large pot of lightly-salted water to the boil, drop in the pasta, & cook 3-4 minutes or till they’re al dente. Heat the sauce through while the ravioli cook. I’m just about to go & do that now. And we’re going to have it with a nice bottle of red wine, all the way from Italy!

** make that 5 dozen – I counted as I popped them into the pot 🙂